I woke this morning with my mind reciting the words of St. Francis Assisi Prayer for Peace. My heart was turbulent and I wasn’t quite certain why. I had slept peacefully and awoke feeling rested, yet the turbulence in my heart was relentless. I sat with the feeling for a while and allowed myself to be present and aware. Slowly I was able to identify the sources of my turbulent heart.
My feelings lay on top of several experiences over the past weeks. My personal observance of Black History Month was a commitment to experience more fully what life may have been like for my African American brothers and sisters. I began reading “The Warmth of Other Suns” written by Isabel Wilkerson. As I took in the stories of the lives of Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, I ingested their life stories and imagined what I was experiencing in similar times of my life. I am always deeply and profoundly moved that the lives of African Americans can differ so much from my life. The sufferings I have experienced, while some have been ego bruising and very hurtful, they have never been life-threatening. I have never worried about how I would be treated or perhaps mistreated because of the shade of my skin. This weighs heavily on my heart.
Another experience was viewing the film “Just Mercy”. It is a powerful, extremely well-done film that left me sobbing and hurting over the poignant reminder of the inequity of justice toward persons of color that are not merely stories of our history but are very much alive today. The group I joined for discussion after the film was equally powerful. The beautiful, brilliant and quite successful woman who sat next to me shared with a quiver in her voice the very real and everyday fears and struggles of a woman of color in our country. I heard of the fears for their sons being unjustly imprisoned or worse and I heard of the fewer opportunities for equal pay for their daughters. I heard the calm quiet resolute story from the grandmother across the room about her brother being stopped by police officers on his wedding night because his wife was a fair skinned woman. I witnessed a twenty something year old share the hurt that was in her heart after watching the film. This has weighed heavily on my soul.
Each week of Black History Month, as we gather together at Unity, we share the works of inspiring African American Unity ministers who have transcended the inequality of race in our movement and in our country. I have been inspired by each story as it is shared.
By getting personal with the stories of others, I am compelled to become a stronger voice for equality, justice, and freedom and to live authentically for all people. Yes, this month, February, is devoted to Black history, yet there are legions of people who are fearful to live their true authentic selves. They fear prejudice in jobs, housing, religious organizations and more. As a person who does not live fearful of any of these things, I cannot simply ignore the tribulations of my brothers and sisters whose skin reflects one of the many shades of flesh, whose gender is identified as fluid, who loves regardless of gender, who have migrated to live a better life, or whose religion places them under scrutiny.
Thus, the words of St. Francis begin to bring peace to my heart and answers to the question “What can I do?” If your heart and mind are moved to be an advocate for all, St. Francis offers at least a beginning in the words of his Prayer for Peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, pardon
where there is doubt, faith
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
where there is sadness, joy
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
Blessings of peace and love,